June 03, 2009

Gov. Pawlenty and the Election Certificate

NY Times:

    At a news conference in St. Paul called to discuss his plans, Mr. Pawlenty also made clear that he would follow the directive of the State Supreme Court and ratify whomever it declared the victor in the Senate race between Norm Coleman, a Republican, and Al Franken, a Democrat.

    Republican leaders in Washington, including Michael Steele, the head of the Republican National Committee, have said they would appeal the case in federal court should the state court rule against Mr. Coleman. That put Mr. Pawlenty in the position of dealing with conflicting pressure from national Republicans -- eager to stop the Democrats from holding 60 seats, which would allow them to halt a filibuster -- and from Minnesota residents eager for the race to be resolved.

    "I think you guys have really overbaked that issue," Mr. Pawlenty said when asked about this at the news conference. "I'm going to do whatever the court says. If the court directs me to sign that certificate, I will."

Overbaked? Here's what the governor said last month: "'I don't know whether [the certificate] would be required to be issued. I think it could be issued at that time,' said Pawlenty. 'I'm not saying I wouldn't issue the certificate. I'm just saying we should have all of the facts in front of us before we precommit to something like that....'I also would want to look at what the courts did with the case in terms of leaving issues for potential appeal, the strength of those issues, how directly and effectively they addressed them,' said Pawlenty. 'I'm not saying that I'm going to, or not going to, issue the certificate at that point. I just want to make sure I have all the facts in front of me before I made a decision like that.'"

Professor Larry Jacobs, via TPM:

    I asked Jacobs about how Pawlenty said today -- not for the first time -- that he would obey the decision of a court to issue a certificate of election. But Jacobs still sees wiggle room here. "Signing it -- and how quickly you sign it -- those are two different things," Jacobs explained. "If Norm indicates that he's going to be filing in federal court, the Governor may just say, 'you know, I am gonna sign it, I'm just waiting to hear from my legal counsel that this is appropriate.'"

I would add that if the Minnesota Supreme Court opinion does not specifically direct the governor to sign the certificate, there will be a lot more wiggle room in terms of such timing, including the possibility of waiting for the outcome of a possible cert. petition. At that point, the Senate could step in, even without a signed certificate.

Posted by Rick Hasen at June 3, 2009 07:42 AM